If it were easy everyone would be doing it, the old joke says.  These days, however, it appears that everyone is blogging… but not everyone is doing it well at all.

In fact, there are a number of common mistakes seen time and time again in blogs.  Here are five of them – and what you can do about them.

Plagiarism

Repeat after me: content belongs to the original creator. Lots of people think the internet is a free for all for imagery, words and videos, but everything was created by somebody and you need their permission to use it for your own purposes.

This has become a major topic on Instagram.  “Transformative artist” Richard Prince has become (in)famous by pushing U.S. fair use laws to their limits, but do you really want to find yourself in court as often as he does (or receiving the same amount of controversy)?

Respect other people’s right to the works they create and never assume something is available for your use unless it explicitly says so.

Lack of sensitivity

Using a combination of “evergreen” content and “trending now” content can be a great way to build a brand, but remember that even though you might be in a real rush to get out content while it’s still hot off the digital presses, you still need to take (or make) the time to give it a basic “common sense and good taste” test.

This is particularly true for jokes.  If people get the idea that you are milking someone else’s misfortune or making fun of a serious situation, then your attempt at creating viral content may backfire spectacularly.  Try searching “newsjacking fail” to see what we mean by this.

Straying into controversial topics

For many bloggers, topics such as religion and politics should be left well alone.  Many people avoid talking about sports, too.

The basic fact of the matter is that controversial topics are, by nature, divisive and as a blogging ‘brand’, the last thing you want to do is lose fans by making statements that are pretty much guaranteed to annoy them, particularly if they have little to nothing to do with your usual message.

Compromising your credibility

This has become a really hot topic over recent times, particularly with regards to “independent” content creators doing undisclosed deals with brands so that their readers are misled into thinking reviews are completely unbiased rather than being more in the line of “infomercials”.

You are expected to promote your own content but you’ll still be expected to provide honest and accurate information.  For example, if you’re going to make a claim about a product, then you need to reference some credible (and ideally verifiable) data to back it up.

On a similar note, make sure that you’re seen to be practicing your brand values rather than just preaching them, otherwise you’ll quickly lose the respect of your followers.

Being too much of a follower

There’s nothing you can do about who backlinks to your website, but you can and should think carefully about the external links you put on your website.  Using “nofollow” links (and appropriate text) allows you to provide external content for information, while making it clear that you are not endorsing it.

If you are being paid to promote a brand, it is especially important to use “nofollow” links so that you don’t fall foul of Google guidelines for paid endorsements.

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